The social and anticipatory geographies of social anxiety

Boyle, Louise Elizabeth (2019) The social and anticipatory geographies of social anxiety. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Social anxiety is deeply entangled with an individual’s social and interpersonal environments, provoking distress for those who experience social interactions and spaces as threatening. Social anxieties rupture the fabrics, places and spaces of everyday life and are fundamentally geographical, bound up in an intimate social geography of experience where anxiety, fear, embarrassment and shame occur across a range of social settings. This thesis examines the everyday lived geographies of people experiencing often debilitating and distressing social anxieties.

The research landscape of social anxiety is one dominated by the disorder/illness model, one that prioritises the presence of an organic or cognitive abnormality as the cause of disorder. Against these individualising biomedical understandings, I develop a novel conceptualisation of social anxiety as a social and spatial phenomenon. I examine the relationship between social anxieties and the temporalities and spatialities of everyday life by prioritising everyday routines, practices, interactions, situations, sites and settings through and in which social anxieties are embodied, enacted, sustained and managed. Social anxieties shape, and are shaped by, our social and spatial surroundings: first, where anxieties shape the perception or experience a person has of/in a particular place or space and second, where an interaction, site or setting shapes the intensities or contours of anxious experiences.

Drawing on lived accounts of experience that were gathered through qualitative research methods, including an online questionnaire and semi-structured, online and telephone interviews, I contribute to research on the relationship between health and place by engaging experience-centred knowledges that takes seriously the lived reality of living, experiencing and managing social anxiety. The methodological approach also contributes to debates concerning how ‘we’ (as researchers) research experiences of health and place, highlighting the need for flexibility in the research process and designing research that fosters participation while enabling people to define the nature and limits of their participation.

Through the conceptual underpinnings of psychoanalytic, anticipatory, habitual and emotional and affective geographies mapped against a background of critical approaches in health geographies, findings account for the importance of social and spatial factors in producing, sustaining and experiencing social anxieties. This thesis engages with lived accounts of mental health and illness that disrupt, challenge and nuance the medicalisation of mental health experiences, towards a social and spatial understanding of social anxiety.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: social anxiety, mental health geography, health geography, lived experience, online methods, qualitative research.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Philo, Prof. Christopher and McGeachan, Dr. Cheryl
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Louise Elizabeth Boyle
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-74345
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2019 10:24
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2019 10:30
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.74345
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